Earlier this year I took a look at Studio Wildcat's ARK: Survival Evolved as it was nearing the end of its early access run and gearing up for a proper release. After a second playthrough, it appears that little has changed over the past six months. That’s great news if you’re already a fan of the game, though it also means that some of its most glaring issues are still present.
If you haven’t played the game yet, you can check out a description of how everything works here. Otherwise, here are my thoughts now that ARK is officially out.
The game looks better than ever.
There were a few (expected) glitches while ARK was in early access. And from what I could tell, those problems have been ironed out on PS4 since its release. This is easily one of the best looking survival games on the market. I especially love how jarring it is when you run into a sci-fi element in the game. A towering metal obelisk floating in the air should feel out of place when you and your friends are still trying to build a wooden hut.
There’s an endgame.
It’s possible to build fortresses and tame dinosaurs until the end of time. But if you’re looking for a definitive way to proclaim that you’ve beaten the game, you can test your fighting skills against a few gargantuan creatures by collecting enough rare items. I’m personally a fan since there comes a point when basic survival becomes easy, albeit tedious. Advanced players need something like a massive dragon to keep them on their toes.
The game is cruel for newcomers.
An un-intuitive UI and a lack of instructions within the game make this title seem almost like it’s actively working to push away new players. And that mindset is perpetuated by the players themselves. I had to give up on player vs. player (PvP) servers after an hour after of repeatedly spawning in the “easy” parts of the map, only to be shot down by more advanced players. (Keep in mind, you spawn with basically nothing. These players had freaking sniper rifles.) My friends also tell me horror stories of spending hours building stone huts to stash their resources, only to find them destroyed and looted after a few hours away from the controller. Unless you can find your way into the bigger tribes, it’s almost not worth playing PvP matches because of all the wasted time. Speaking of which...
There’s so much grinding, and it’s rarely fun.
Player vs. environment (PvE) servers are typically places where you don’t have to worry as much about raiding parties. But the downside is that basic resources are incredibly hard to come by. Most of your time will be spent scavenging the map for materials to craft your gear. And it’s possible for your craft items to wear out. Because of this, I’ve spent entire play sessions gathering materials to make stuff I’ve already made before.
Seriously, the grinding in this game is the worst.
Want a dinosaur as a pet? Or any other creature for that matter? Expect to set aside a week of your time to tame one. Want to fight the final boss? You’ll need rare collectibles, which means you’ll need to fight creatures and wreck your crafted items. Then you’ll have to spend a few days building your crafted items again, all while scavenging to find resources to maintain your hunger, heat, and health levels. It’s all incredibly tedious.
All in all, this is essentially the same game I played a few months ago, save for a few graphical fixes and a few more areas to explore. ARK has a lot of really interesting ideas, and the presentation is fantastic. But after a few months of work, I expected more improvements from this title, and it’s a shame that it still carries a lot of the same problems as it had when it was still in early access. And ultimately, its inaccessibility for newcomers and overall repetitive nature makes it difficult to recommend paying full price.
Final score: 6.6 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.